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February 15, 2001
The Rediff Interview/JKDLF Chief Hashim Qureshi
The concluding segment of Assistant Editor Chindu Sreedharan's interview with Hashim Qureshi, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Front.
If you missed the first part of this exclusive interview, click here
Coming to the present, why did you choose to return now? Why not five years before? Why now?
Five years before... [Laughs, pauses.] I feel the situation is most conducive. There is a peace process going on. I know from inside that there is a Track II diplomacy. Now everybody wants peace, everybody has realised that gun is not the solution. I was saying the same thing 10 years ago. If I had come and said in '92, gun is not the solution, they would have killed me. Today when I say gun is not the solution, stop it, everybody is listening.
Then my conscience... people are dying here. And Mary Robinson, the chairman of the [United Nations] Human Rights [Commission] told me, Go tell the people that there can be no solution with armed struggle.
My conscience troubled me, it kept telling me that my people are dying here on the streets. [So much so that] I was always sick. I was with my wife, but I was not with her. I was spending eight hours on the computer. I was sleeping only four hours. I am healthy here than [I was] there.
How did your family react to your decision to return?
My wife, she is a little bit worried. About my health, this prison, about threats. Yeah, she is worried.
You see, the Kashmir struggle is not on the right track. Before two weeks, Mr Lone gave an interview in which he said we are slaves both in PoK and here. He said we are better off here because we are at least struggling for freedom. The people in PoK can't even do that.
What I told in the 90s, in my book Unveiling of the truth, people are saying it today. Shabir Shah said on television that we can go to election on both sides supervised by NGOs and the representatives from both sides can then decide on Kashmir. This formula I had told in '92. Now all the leaders are arriving at the solutions I suggested in '90 or '92.
This is not a religious struggle. Whoever is saying that this is a religious struggle, he is not a real Kashmiri. He could be an enemy of Kashmir. Because, then he is asking for the division of Kashmir on the basis of religion. And then we can't get anything. The Valley is only 8,000 kilometres. There is Ladakh, there is Jammu, there is Gilgit- Baltistan, there is PoK.
What is your plan of action here? What do you hope to achieve here?
My plan of action... I want to save Kashmir environmentally. You can see everywhere, there are no trees, nothing. This is also treason against the country. I want to teach the people about environment and I want to teach them that this is an era in which nobody will listen to the gun.
Last year on Eid day there was a mine blast here. And one old man was beating his chest and saying, 'Is this azadi? My two sons have died.' Every television in Europe and America showed it and everybody was against our struggle: This is your struggle? Killing the people?
My aim in coming here is to correct this wrong path of the struggle. Because you can continue with killing for another 50 years and we still won't reach our goal. We have a party here, the J&K Democratic Liberation Party. We need to strengthen it. We need civil disobedience. We are going to hold talks with a lot of people. We already are talking with people.
Who will be your political allies?
Every sensible man. Every sensible group. Every sensible political leader. I am a pro-Kashmiri. But pro-Kashmiri does not mean pro-Valley. I am not communal. I am deadly secular. I will not compromise on that. I will not compromise on being pro-Kashmir either. To me a Kashmiri means not someone living in the Valley alone.
How do you see the cease-fire?
It is a very nice step. But you need to move ahead. With the cease-fire the Indians want to show the whole world that we want peace. I think we are fools to oppose the cease-fire. Who opposes the cease-fire, he is telling the world that we don't want peace! When you are rejecting the cease-fire, you are rejecting a solution to our problem.
You said Indians want to show the world... does that mean that you don't believe the cease-fire is sincere?
There are so many bunkers here. Why the bunkers? You are providing targets to militants. If there is no bunker, the militant cannot throw grenades at it. There is a lot of tortures, arrests, killing in custody. Just give the people a chance, show them that you are sincere and then the people can themselves rise and say, Stop the gun!
But there are killings, STF (J&K police's Special Task Force) is arresting and killing people. If cease-fire doesn't mean stopping all this, it means nothing!
You got to go further. For instance, the Hurriyat wants to go to Pakistan. Give them passports. But that will also not lead to a solution. Because the Hurriyat does not represent the whole of Kashmir. That's the truth. They have no Ladakh representation, no Jammu representation... they do not even represent the whole Valley.
What is your solution?
Intra-Kashmir dialogue. The people of Gilgit, Ladakh, Jammu, PoK and the Valley should sit together and talk. Then, talk with India, talk with Pakistan. The best solution is to talk and talk till you reach a solution.
In my point of view, there is only one solution: a secular independent Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan, the whole PoK and Ladakh, Jammu and Valley. A secular Kashmir that would include the Pandits. I am anxious that they return.
I have a message to the Sikh brothers and sisters. Don't go from here. This is your land. We don't want to let you go. I want to tell the Pandits and Sikhs that more Kashmiri Muslims are dying every day, killed by grenades, by police, by militants. But we are not leaving. We are staying here. I request the Pandits to come back. Live with us, die with us.
What are the bottlenecks you see to the peace process?
There is a need to stop the people who say they are fighting for Islam. Even General Musharraf has said that this is not a religious war, it is political problem.
You are calling for a stop to jihad and jihadis?
I am telling people to look at the international reaction, look at the past 12 years. With this armed struggle we are not gaining anything. Stop all this and let the people try to solve this problem. In India, only Vajpayee can solve it. In Pakistan, there is a military regime that can solve it. This is the best time to sit down and solve it.
A crop of political platforms has come up during the years of militancy. How much do you think they have contributed to the Kashmir cause?
I am not going to say names, but I know a political party that is part of the Hurriyat, its district president is a chaprasi, peon, in a government department. Except for Jamaat-e-Islami and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, no other party, including us, has any cadre on the ground.
I am with Mr Shabir Shah. He says that we should become one party. It may not be possible for us all to become one party, but there is a way. Whoever is asking for accession with Pakistan, let them all come together, who is asking independent Kashmir, they can come together, and who's asking to join India, they can come together. Then we talk. This should include [the representatives of] Gilgit, Pakistan and PoK.
Okay... to repeat my question, do you think the new crop of parties has contributed to a solution?
No, they have not. You see, the solution is not to make more parties. That will only divide the people. I am ready to merge my party with anyone who wants independent Kashmir. If you see the rest of the world, America, for example, there are only two parties.
How long do you think it would take to arrive at a solution?
If Pakistan wants it, he can wind up all these militants in three-four hours. That is one reality. My request to all these people are that, you are also sons of somebody. Please, this is not a religious matter, this is a political problem. There are more than 20 crore Muslims in India. Nobody stops us in India from doing namaz or our religious functions. You can't say this is a war against kafirs. Don't make it a religious problem. When you make it a religious problem, the whole world becomes against us and we lose their sympathy. So I request you, Stop, this is the problem of the Kashmiri people.
That's the same statement that Mr Lone made in Pakistan.
Well, I can say that what Lone said then, I had said years ago. And Lone is the one man who invited Taleban. I told him that time, when Afghan was the rulers here, they tortured us. They rule very ruthlessly.
Do you think you are under threat from anyone?
Yes, you can say that. Here, in these 10 years, they killed every sensible person. They killed Maulavi Farooq. They killed Maulavi Nisar in Anantnag. They killed Dr Guru. They killed a lot of people. But they can't kill truth. They can't kill the wish of the people. It is the wish of the people that we want peace with dignity and honour. Not just peace, not the peace of graveyard.
Every Kashmiri wants this problem to be solved. We want to stop the excesses of the army, the STF and the surrendered militants. They are the enemies of the Kashmiri and they are the enemy of the Indians. Because, when they are doing such wrong things, then people think that it is India who is behind all this. And these are the people who are creating hate between Indian and Kahmiri people.
Do you foresee an end to all this in the near future?
If there is no big incident, I think we can achieve peace soon. I know there are a lot of hardliners sitting in Pakistan, sitting here, sitting in Indian government. They want killing, killing, killing. They have vested interest in it.
But it depends on Pakistan and Indian rulers. We are slaves on both sides. I think yes, there will be a solution, because both India and Pakistan have economical problems. This Kashmir problem can be solved within half-an-hour. How? By removing the hate that has been created on both sides of the border by the Indian and Pakistani establishments. To remove this from the hearts of the people, open the borders. Let Pakistanis come here, let Indians go there. Open the markets, everything.
I had given a solution earlier. Freezing Kashmir problem for 25 years. Don't talk about a solution for 25 years. Give autonomy on both sides. Open the border. Army, sit in the barracks. When people see each other there will be no hate.
Why 25 years? Because it took 50 years to bring this hate. So you need 25 years to dissolve it.
Before we wind up, it is said that Indian agencies brought you back as a counter to both the Hurriyat and National Conference. Your comments.
[Laughs.] First of all, I am not famous as all that. Yeah, my name is famous, people know me. But on the ground level, I have no big party or followers.
Then, I am facing charges that were made in 1971: that I am a Pakistani agent. There is a case against me under the Enemy Ordinance 3, a case under the Official Secrets Act, a case for robbery and airplane-burning.
I am treated as an Indian agent by the Pakistanis, and as a Pakistani agent by the Indians! I am the second man being treated so after Maqbool Bhat.
And I am facing trial by the normal procedure. I am going to the chief magistrate, I am going to the court... This is just propaganda by the enemies of peace.
Is there anything that I haven't asked? Anything else you would like to tell us?
I want to tell the people of Pakistan this: We are suffering a lot here. Our people are being killed on the streets. This is not the way, to kill children and women and burn them alive in their houses. I want to appeal to Pakistani people, especially that side of the Gilgit Pakistan, Please, we are on the edge of destruction. Just come out and say that this is not the way. Don't kill anymore of us, we are already 80,000 killed. I request Pakistanis to stop sending armed people here. That is not the solution.
To Indians I say, for 53 years Kashmir problem has been there. You are the country of Gandhi. Your father of nation is respected by the whole world. When you are not satisfying the Kashmiri people, it creates a bad name for the country of Gandhi. You are sensible people, please solve this problem. Stop these excesses.
Photograph: Chindu Sreedharan, Design: Dominic Xavier
'I hope every Kashmiri will support me in my efforts to bring peace to Kashmir'
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